Susan Pesce of Jefferson Township filed a wrongful death suit in a Philadelphia County Court against Christopher Norman, King Transport LLC, and Speedway LLC after her husband Charles was killed in a tragic accident. Mr. Pesce, who was 69-years-old at the time, was run over by a large truck and his body was dragged down the road. The incident occurred at a Speedway gas station in Berks County. The formal cause of death was determined to be the result of “blunt force trauma”.
Pesce parked at the Speedway location in Fleetwood in a truck parking area and then proceeded into the store. Christopher Norman, age 25, drove into the lot in a 2007 Peterbilt tractor-trailer owned by King Transport moments after Pesce went inside. Norman parked the vehicle and left it idling between the convenience store and the gasoline pumps. As Pesce exited the store, Norman suddenly drove the truck ahead and struck him.
Details of Fatal Accident
After falling to the ground the truck ran over Pesce, who attempted to hold onto the vehicle's bumper. Norman did not appear to realize that he had struck the man. He was lodged below the truck and his body was dragged down the road. The claim states that Pesce endured significant physical and emotional distress prior to his death.
The claim alleges that Norman was negligent in his parking and operation of the tractor trailer. King Transport is accused of being vicariously liable in the matter based on the actions of Norman while working on their behalf. Speedway is a named defendant based on failing to prevent the accident on their property. Legal counsel for Speedway says the accusations of negligence based on premises liability are “unsupported by any facts”. The plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of $50,000 and punitive damages as well.
The concept of vicarious liability is based on the theory of respondeat superior. This theory states that the employer (master) is potentially responsible for the actions of those working on their behalf. This applies even in the event of criminal actions or harm committed with intent. The concept is often referred to as derivative liability, as the responsibility “passes through” from employee to employer. An employer also can be accused of negligence as it relates to their hiring, supervision and training of those working on their behalf. A jury is responsible for assessing whether the employee's actions were conducted while acting within their scope of employment.
Scope of Employment
When a jury is tasked with determining if an employee was acting within their scope of employment they may consider the following:
- The party is operating according to his or her typical duties or responsibilities
- The action(s) occurred within their usual working hours
- They are (to some degree) “serving the master” at the time
- Employers may not be vicariously liable if the party is acting on their own behalf, such as beyond the scope of duties for which they are authorized
- If the actions are strictly conducted for their own personal reasons then employers may not have responsibility